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Lesson 11: The Wedding Garment *

Introduction: Matthew 21 contains stories which reveal that God has enemies among humans. The problem with these enemies is that they do not at first appear to be opponents, they appear to be supporters. Last week we studied the parable of the prodigal son and learned that the salvation of the older, "good," brother was in dispute. All of these stories are a bit unsettling for us "good" Christians, and drive us to better understand the gospel. Let's jump into our study of the Bible to be sure that we are not in the camp of God's enemies!

  1. Two Answers


    1. Read Matthew 21:28-29. If Jesus is telling a parable of the Kingdom of Heaven, what kind of person is this? (Someone who rejects God, but later in life changes his mind and follows God.)


    2. Read Matthew 21:30-31. Is this a person who is in church? (This is someone who agrees to be a follower of Jesus, but is either lying about it or later changes his mind.)


      1. Do you agree with the answer given by Jesus' listeners?


      2. If you agree with this answer, how can it be true that tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the Kingdom of Heaven? These are not people who are doing God's will! Or, are they?


    3. Read Matthew 21:32. What kind of "doing the will of God" can the prostitutes claim? (When we first started this story, the work was to labor in the vineyard. Now, we see the "work" - at least initially - is to believe and repent.)


      1. What is the problem with those who did not believe John the Baptist? (They did not believe what John said about "the way of righteousness.")


        1. What should that teach us? (That it is essential to have a correct understanding of God's path to righteousness. The people who you would expect to understand and accept did not. Instead, unlikely people understood and accepted.)


        2. Is the path to righteousness difficult to understand? Is it like complex math? (No. The problem was one of belief, not a problem of understanding.)


  2. The Original Invitation


    1. Read Matthew 22:1-2. What are we about to learn? (The answer to the question that we just discussed was of the greatest interest - what is God's path to righteousness?)


    2. Read Matthew 22:3-5. Are these invited people the King's friends? (Probably. They are considered worthy of being invited to the King's celebration of the wedding of his son. The King certainly has some sort of relationship with them.)


      1. Is the King persistent in his invitation? (Yes. He invites them twice. He should be insulted by their initial refusal, but instead he repeats the invitation.)


      2. Why do the King's friends turn him down? (They are too busy with life! Business has their attention.)


    3. Read Matthew 22:6. What kind of attitude do these "friends" have? (They do not act like friends. They mistreat and kill the King's servants.)


      1. How do you treat your local pastor? How about church officers?


      2. How can you explain what the "friends" did? (They were irritated and angry with the King's invitation.)


    4. Read Matthew 22:7. The King may be patient and slow to anger, but is he weak? (No. He executes punishment on his "friends" who act like enemies.)


      1. Jesus' story takes place shortly before His crucifixion. What does this story bring to mind? (The religious leaders condemned Jesus and persuaded the Roman authorities to kill Him. Not long thereafter, their city, Jerusalem, was destroyed by the Romans.)


  3. The Second Invitation


    1. Read Matthew 22:8. Why did those who were invited not "deserve" to come? (They were not interested in coming. Or, they were less interested in coming then they were interested in the affairs of life.)


    2. Read Matthew 22:9-10. List the ways in which this new group of invited guests differs from the first group of invited guests? (1. The King does not know them. 2. They are not natural people to invite to a King's feast because there is nothing special about them. 3. They are a mixed group of good and bad people. 4. They are willing to come.)


      1. Of those four differences, which one is the most important? (They are willing to come!)


    3. Read Matthew 22:11-12. Not too long ago we studied this parable and I called the second group of invited guests "Walmart shoppers." Why should this man be "speechless" (without excuse) if he had gone straight from Walmart to the wedding feast? (The only way this makes any sense is if the King was giving out wedding garments to all of these guests. Clearly, none of the Walmart shoppers put on their royal wedding clothes to go shopping!)


  1. Initial Analysis


    1. We have a lot of information about the meaning of the gospel, the path to eternal life. If you put our first parable about the sons together with the second parable about the wedding feast, what common answer do we get to the question: "How do I enter into eternal life?" (In both cases the key was coming. Coming to work in the vineyard. Coming to the wedding feast.)


    2. As a practical matter, what does it mean for us to "come" to God?


      1. Perhaps the easiest way to approach this issue is to identify what constitutes not coming to God. What kept people from coming to God in the two parables we just discussed?


        1. Let's start with the parable of the two sons. (Just talking about it was not sufficient. You had to do something about it. Indeed, talking about it might be a trap. If you say you are coming, but do not, you may have mislead yourself. At a minimum, whatever the sons said was completely irrelevant to the outcome.)


        2. What about the parable of the wedding feast? ( Matthew 22:5 tells us that ignoring God, putting our work or business before God, is fatal to coming. Matthew 22:6 tells us that hostility to God's agents is fatal to coming. The Walmart shoppers were not hostile to the King's helpers, and they were more interested in the wedding feast than shopping at Walmart.)


        3. Our conclusion, then, about what it means to "come" to God is: a) It means doing, not just talking; and, b)It means having the right attitude - a willingness to put God first.


  2. Staying Invited


    1. Re-read Matthew 22:11-13. This is a very curious guest. He answered the King's invitation, left Walmart, and came to the wedding feast. Yet he gets tossed out into "the darkness." Can we lose our salvation? (If coming to the feast means being saved, then this fellow became "unsaved.")


      1. How do we avoid this fellow's fate? (Thinking our Walmart clothes are good enough. We need to accept the free gift of the King's robe of righteousness.)


      2. Consider this fellow just a minute. He put the King's invitation above his own business, he was not hostile to the King's agents, he came to the wedding feast. He just thought that his righteousness was good enough. Could this describe you?


  3. The Final Analysis


    1. Read Matthew 22:14. If you were working on this manuscript with Matthew, what would you say about the accuracy of this statement? (The first part is right - all sorts of people were invited to the King's wedding feast. But, the last part is clearly wrong - the King chose everyone. He even invited Walmart shoppers! Since we know that the Bible is God's infallible Word, how do you explain this? (The only way this makes any sense is to say that "God chooses those who choose to come to Him.")


      1. Given what we have studied, what is the path to eternal life? (1. Repenting (the decision to put God's invitation ahead of our selfish interests); 2. Coming (acting on God's invitation, having the right attitude; and, 3. Accepting God's robe of righteousness (relying on Jesus' righteousness instead of our own).)


    2. Read Matthew 22:15. How do you explain this? (Jesus was destroying their special status. They were the select. Jesus accepts Walmart shoppers who come to Him.)


    3. Friend, you may think that you are a friend of the King, you may think that you are special, but these parables show that talk means nothing. The wrong attitude is fatal. Your attitude of putting the King's interests first, accepting His invitation, and accepting His robe of righteousness are key. Will you, right now, repent and enter the Kingdom of God?


  4. Next week: More Clothing Imagery.
* Copr. 2011, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2017 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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